Jaguars RB Travis Etienne happy to get hit in practice to acclimate: 'I need to get tackled'

Travis Etienne's NFL journey hasn't truly gotten off the ground, but he recently reached an important -- and to the average person, peculiar -- milestone in practice.

Etienne got leveled.

It was the first time since his 2021 season-ending Lisfranc injury that the running back experienced the violent contact typical of professional football. And it was long overdue.

"I need that!" Etienne said after Jaguars safety Andre Cisco flattened him, per the Associated Press. "I haven't played in so long (that) I want to get tackled. I need to get tackled just to get my body back acclimated with that. I've just been at home, working out, chilling on the couch, stuff like that, so to come out here and get some bumps and bruises ... I miss that contact. It may sound crazy, but I miss kind of being in those car crashes."

There's just something special about those first few hours of hitting, especially for a player who has been away for so long. Some will refer to it as knocking the dust/rust off the pads, with the sweet, cracking sound of contact filling the warm air during camp, but those who have endured a long road to their return know it's just as important to clear the mental hurdle.

For Etienne, it's something he's intentionally avoided for nearly a year, and if he hopes to become the contributor Jacksonville believes he can be, he'll need to get used to such contact. Bring on the hits.

"It feels great to be back out there," Etienne said. "It's been a long time since I've played football. It reminded me quickly that it's a physical game. That's why we play. That's why we love it."

In this era of increased focus on player safety, it might be alarming to hear a team allowing such contact during camp. But it's just about as important to acclimate players to the rough and relentless environment they'll enter every week. Jacksonville got an early taste of this last week when the Jaguars traveled to Canton, Ohio, and didn't muster much resistance in a 27-11 loss to the Raiders in the Hall of Fame Game.

The manner in which the Jaguars lost prompted coach Doug Pederson to loosen the restraints on contact and allow them to build an appetite for it. Plenty of Jags will need it -- perhaps none more than Etienne.

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